How can I stop my cat’s jealous behavior?

PoC has an interesting comment from a visitor and (s)he seeks some advice. I hope PoC’s panel of resident experts can assist. Personally, I have a bit of difficulty dealing with the concept of “cat jealousy”. It may be anthropomorphizing cats. Although it comes up a lot on the internet cat forums so I tend to believe in it. You’ll say it definitely happens 🙂

When there are two cats and one person what may happen is that both the cats like the person but the cats don’t get on that well. So when all three are close together the cats are a little hostile with each other but friendly with the person. That is not jealousy. Although it might look like it through human eyes. I’m not certain though. It is just a thought.

 Jealous cat
Jealous cat. See original cat and a short commentary.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The Cat Behavior Question

Here is the comment, which is a request for advice:

I have two cats; a ten year old male and a three year old female. The ten year old came to me when he was about six months old. He’s a very sweet cat who loves other cats and kittens. A real father figure.

The three year old was my brother’s and his ex’s cat. She’s very playful, but has some personality problems since they both abandoned her. First it was his ex, then she lived mostly outside and the my brother left her…. to me… He knows I can’t stand leaving such a cutie behind. She was 1.5 yrs old back then.

Since then it’s been hard to connect with her, seeing her trust issue’s, but till recently I finally gained her trust.

Now this is where the problem begins. Lately they’re fighting over me; who gets to sit on me, who gets to sit on the last thing I touched, etc. The young one gets really jealous when I pet or hug my old one. Even though she gets equal attention.

The old one doesn’t get jealous so much, he just wants to lie cosy with her on my lap and clean her and such. Which she doesn’t like or something and starts attacking him. I really don’t know what to do anymore and I’ve read a lot of books about cats; bad and good ones. Link to comment.

Response from Michael

As mentioned, it may not be a question of jealousy but just a matter of the female not getting on with the male. She may have a character that can only be satisfied if she is the only cat in the home. This may be due to her lack of proper socialization and the bad experiences that she has gone through.

If that is the case it may be necessary to bite the bullet and, with great care, rehome her. I don’t like to see the male cat’s lifestyle disrupted by a newcomer. It is a shame because I always feel that rehoming is a sign of failure; but is it?

The female has been with you for one and a half years, as I understand it. That would seem to be long enough to decide if she can settle in and get on with your boy cat.

How to get her to be more accepting of him? These are rather feeble suggestions:

  • Feliway. I keep wheeling this potential answer out but have no idea if it even works. It is meant to make the environment feel more friendly to a cat. Has this been tried? If not I would at least try it.
  • More play time with the lady cat and perhaps the male will join in and she might forget her slightly hostile approaches to the male. Unlikely to work? Yes.

I have this horrible feeling that your female cat won’t change her attitude. If I am correct (and I welcome alternative ideas) you have two options:

  1. Rehome her or
  2. accept the current situation.

We know that cats form friendships. You see this in cats lying together and grooming each other. The other side of the coin is cats who are not very friendly with each other.  I believe that cats who are not friendly will be unfriendly for the remainder of their lives. I think that is a reasonable assumption. I think it is a common sense assumption.

People put unrelated cats with each other. It is normally just circumstance that dictates which cat lives with which cat. But in a more natural environment the stray or feral cat chooses associates. There isn’t a person who, in effect, dictates the situation.

Obviously there is a wide range of likes and dislikes and some cats will learn to accept cats they are not that happy with. However, this is adapting to the situation, which is not ideal. In this instance I don’t see the female changing and adapting.

I welcome a more optimistic viewpoint and better ideas!

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9 thoughts on “How can I stop my cat’s jealous behavior?”

  1. I have a clear case of jealousy. My cats were raised together they clean and love each other. They share food bowls even if need be. However when it comes to me my one cat has recently started to hiss and growl when the other cat comes to me or by me.She never used to. She used to sleep next to her on me. It started after I had a serious situation with my ex that caused me to give most my attention to the toxic relationship and not my cats. The cat that hisses is an attention whore literally. So now I am broken up with the ex and have been giving her more attention but the damage is done she learned to hiss and be jleous. How do I break this new learned habit?

  2. I own 2 cats, 1 female and 1 male (from the same litter)They are 3 yrs old and have got on well, now when the female cat comes near me the male gets on top of her and starts biting her around the back of neck and then wrestle to get rid of her.

    The male cat is also jealous of our dog who came into our lives 2 yrs later. Can you please offer me a cure as I cant part with any of them as I love them.
    Regards Marion

  3. Channing, my wonderfully affectionate and dedicated Abysinnian has been with me since he was 6-7 weeks old. Since we were relocating to New York City, I persuaded the breeder to let me take him home a few weeks before his ideal maternal nurturing was complete. (Because of that, I may be imagining but he loved to nestle under my neck and for the first 7 years of his life, he would appear to be nursing himself under my neck. It was actually adorable and a very good bonding practice for both of us). After he turned 6 mos., my bldg super/friend would often stop by my apartment and tell me how excited Channing was to see him. It was then that I decided to get a companion/sister. Angel came into our lives at about 3 mos. old. For an entire week, she sat solemnly on a chair under the dining room table ignoring Channing’s insistence on wanting to play. Like biblical times, on the 7th day, she finally gave in and they quickly became sister/brother. I was hospitalized for about 5-6 weeks about a few years after I had them. Once again, my cat sitter would visit them twice a day and they seemed to be very close. Angel would never be as demonstrative affectionally as Channing. But when I went away to Asia for a few weeks, the cat sitter said they were well behaved. When I got home, they immediately slept on my lap and shoulder for nearly 2.5 hours straight.
    Fast forward to Channing now a vibrant 11 yr old and Angel a sweet loving 10.5 year old, I have noticed Channing being more and more possessive of me and always quick to induce gender and age hierarchy over Angel at dinner and even sitting down to relax. Angel sneaks personal time with me when Master Channing is a sleep or too tired to battle. It makes me a little sad but at the same time, Channing’s demonstrative affection and possession towards me is quite touching. I love them both dearly and am a little sad that Angel has to play second fiddle to King Channing. What is a parent to do?

  4. I am having an issue with my grey tabby… I love her very much she is 4 now and I have had her since she was weaned from her mother… my issue is that she seems to be getting worse on the whole jealousy thing. She is possesive over things like my pillow… I was cuddling with my fiancee and she was on my pillow I went to go lay back on my pillow and she immediatly went into attack mode and literally tried to bite my face letting out this awful meow. She likes to be around me 24/7… wherever I am there she is usually sitting ontop of me, she likes to be a cat scarf and wrap herself around my neck… there are weeks where shes good and doesnt attack but then there are days where I feel like im her prey and all she does is stalk me and then attack…

    • I expect your cat came along well before your fiance did she? She is obviously very possessive over you and resents him getting your love and attention, Does he make a fuss of her too? He needs to talk to her, encourage him feed her and play with her and spend time alone with her to make her feel he loves her as much as he loves you.
      Attacking you on your pillow was probably because cats hate a person’s face being close to theirs, it makes them feel threatened if we look directly at them, so they are on the defensive and attack before they are attacked.
      If she stalks you try not to react as she’s after even more attention from you, distract her by throwing a toy.
      I think with time and patience it will turn out OK for you all, I hope so anyway.

  5. I think cats can feel jealousy, we can’t know for sure what emotions a cat feels as they can’t tell us in words, but I think the female cat is showing by her actions that she is jealous of the older established male cat. Yes she may have put her trust in her new caretaker now but cats never forget and she may be thinking if she pushes the other cat out she will be assured of first place in her new caretaker’s affection and not be abandoned once again. Cats can’t reason like we can (as far as we know) but their instincts are there to guarantee they have the best life they can and now the female has accepted her new caretaker she wants her all to herself.
    The caretaker needs to look as if she is spending equal time with each cat, give them equal attention and not fuss one in sight of the other, but also she needs to ensure the older cat secretly has a bit extra time, a sort of conspiracy between them so that he still feels he is the number one cat in her life. Being so placid he won’t take advantage of this. I think with time, as the younger cat starts to feel she has ‘equal rights’ and isn’t going to be shoved out once again she will calm down and accept she has to share.
    Some cats never like to live with other cats and are best rehomed as a solo cat, but in this case the female cat would feel rejected so I think the caretaker needs to patiently do her best to resolve this if she can.
    I hope it works out for them all.

  6. Firstly I would want to say that this ongoing question of jealousy is simply one of possessiveness. Although jealousy and possessiveness are closely linked in human relationships I think with cats its simply one and not the other. They are not jealous, they simply want to own what is their territory and that’s the underlying cause of what people consider jealous behaviour. Having said that, the question is in the end pretty similar to one of jealously. In the end, can the 2 cats own the same human, or share ownership and if not, why not? In Canada our 2 sister cats had some issues. They would be very cuddly when alone but if the other came in the room things got serious and one was not comfortable to just keep getting love on your lap with the other one sniffing around nearby.

    Why can some cats share and other cats not? What can be done about this younger cat? Well the best medicine is if all 3 of them play together a lot. Playtime is the number one bond before cuddles and before anything except maybe bottle feeding but even then I’d say playing with a kitten as it grows up is the strongest bond you can have. So it always goes without saying that good long play sessions can only help the situation. Really if there is a problem of ownership of the human then it might be easier to look at it as a problem of the 2 cats not getting along and therefore not being able to share.

    Maybe the young girl cat has abandonment issues, or associates partial ownership with loss but how much does human psychology work with cats…. The girl cat has to learn to trust the boy cat and coexist with him. I think with the right motivation anything is possible and even if the 2 cats wont ever be great buddies they will coexist quite peacefully. It’s true they say some cats need to be only cats but if there are no other good options than I think with some work the problem of coexistence can be solved. Its only a problem if the cats are fighting or clearly unhappy and require excessive micromanagement.

    From and idealistic standpoint its true if you want your cat to flourish and be her happy self then it might be best to adopt her out as a single pet. But I am a firm believer in the fact that cats are very social beings and just like humans in many ways. Some humans would say they can’t live with other people, but they can with the right motivation. Same goes for cats. Perhaps Michael is right about a possible lack of proper socialization. What are the ladies options for adopting out? Does she really not want to? Is she out all day? If she is home all day then I think it must be workable because the cats will have no shortage of one on one time with her that they need. There are many ways around it and with a fuller picture those can surely be worked out as long as the human is motivated make it work out too.

    • Thanks for a very full response, Marc. I like the idea of cats possessing us and not being able to share. I think this girl cat has missed socialisation as a kitten and learnt to be the single cat and not to share things with siblings. As you say adult cats can alter their ideas but I suspect it will take at lot longer time than the seven weeks it takes newborn kittens to learn. I guess the question is how committed the human to making things work.

      I’ll see if I can get her/him to comment. Thanks again.


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